Tomorrow is Election Day. Republicans may well take the Senate, mainly because President Obama is so unpopular. That unpopularity, unfortunately, is justified. He is extremely cerebral, but it seems to make him smugly feel he needn’t bother to actually assert leadership. As Leon Panetta, his former Defense Secretary, writes in a new book, Obama has trouble making decisions, let alone gutsy decisions. And he wants to have everything both ways – as with his declaration of war against the Islamic State – without actually fighting a war, in a conventional sense. Aiming to have the best of both worlds – victory without blood – we’ll likely end up with the worst of both – blood without victory.
This is only the latest symptom of Obamasis. The first was to blow off the recommendations of his own Simpson-Bowles commission. That’s not some arcane inside-the-beltway matter. It was probably our last best chance to avoid long run fiscal disaster. Don’t be lulled by transitory deficit declines. A growing imbalance between Americans productively employed and those collecting various benefits puts us on an unsustainable path.
As Panetta’s book elucidates, while of course one must carefully weigh the consequences (and unintended consequences) of action, inaction equally has consequences.
Meantime, as my blog readers know, I’m no great fan of today’s Republicans. One particularly ugly thrust of theirs is voter suppression – making it harder for disadvantaged citizens (assumed to favor Democrats) to vote, through restrictive ID requirements and the like – on the blatantly phony pretext of preventing (almost nonexistent) voter fraud. I wish Republicans would think harder about how to attract voters than blocking them. This is not a strategy that befits a serious political party.
The conventional wisdom (on the left, anyway) says that a Republican Senate would just worsen gridlock. But I doubt this. No longer could Harry Reid be blamed for political paralysis. Obama might be forced to get serious about accommodation with Republicans, on such urgent issues as tax reform and immigration, to avoid his second term being even more conspicuously a failure than it already is. And if Republicans hope to win the White House, they might seek to avoid an image as masters of dysfunction.
A word about the campaign. With much of the electorate divided between immovable partisans, close elections come down to battles over the others, who tend to be much less politically sophisticated; resulting in campaigns, via TV ads, that insult intelligence and demean our democracy.
Everyone decries negative ads, but virtually all candidates (in contested races) use them, because they work. And the standard for what they feel they can get away with, in abusing truth, continues to fall, a real race to the bottom. Ohio actually passed a law banning inaccurate political ads, which was overturned in the courts – thankfully – I take a dim view of any governmental regulation of political advocacy. But I would like to see some public service announcements, on billboards, buses, and the airwaves, something like this:
VOTERS BEWARE! TV ADS SLAMMING POLITICAL CANDIDATES ARE OFTEN VERY MISLEADING! THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY!
Here in New York, exactly as I predicted, our loathesome Governor Cuomo has blanketed the state with ads smearing his opponent, Rob Astorino. Also as I predicted, the New York Times and Albany Times-Union, despite previously excoriating Cuomo, held their noses and endorsed him, being congenitally incapable of backing a Republican. For my case against Cuomo, see my 9/7 blog post.*
The T-U did at least urge a “no” vote on the phony redistricting “reform” on the ballot; though while lamenting Governor Cuomo’s “settling” for this cynical charade in lieu of genuine reform, could not bring itself to call this a black mark against him. In fact it’s a smelly disgrace.
Though I rarely vote for any incumbents, let alone Democratic ones, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has earned support. He has shown himself a straight-shooter, and seems immune from infection by Albany’s political culture. He has come out strongly, in an op-ed, against the redistricting referendum. Cuomo seems to despise DiNapoli. That should certainly recommend him.
Anyhow, even if you do see all politicians as rotten scalawags – vote. And remember that voting for a minority no-hoper is not “wasting” your vote. You waste a vote if you bestow it on a candidate you don’t actually prefer. This is not a game, of trying to pick a winner; there are no prizes for that. And your vote doesn’t really have more weight if cast for a major candidate. We don’t participate on the theory that one’s individual vote will actually affect the outcome. Rather, this is our one great communal civic sacrament.
* I forgot to mention there Cuomo’s egregious statement that “right wingers” have no place in New York State. I would say that people with that kind of intolerant attitude have no place in America. Meantime, progressives see Cuomo as pandering to them while actually selling out to moneyed interests who fatten his campaign war chest. T-U columnist Fred LeBrun baldly calls Cuomo a “fraud.”